Inside the ring, "Iron Mike" Tyson ruled and struck fear in opponents during his prime. Outside the ring, Michael Gerard Tyson has weathered a host of woes and controversies, ranging from allegations of spousal abuse to a rape conviction to the death of his 4-year-old daughter, Exodus, to declaring bankruptcy after frittering away over $300 million in prizefight purses.
Today, he is a very happily-married man, with a couple of children, Milan and Morocco, by his third wife, Kiki. He is currently on a 36-city tour of the country in "Undisputed Truth," a one-man Broadway show that is part comedy/part confessional and covers all of the above and more.
Here, the pugilist-turned-actor talks about his latest movie, "Scary Movie 5," co-starring a rogues gallery of controversial celebrities, including Charlie Sheen, Lindsay Lohan, Katt Williams and Snoop Dogg.
Kam Williams: Hi Mike, thanks for the interview.
Mike Tyson: What's up, Kam?
KW: I really appreciate your taking the time to speak with me.
MT: It's all good in the 'hood, my friend.
KW: Ray Hirschman asks: "What interested you in Scary Movie 5?"
MT: Whew! It's a franchise that's going to last 'til the end of time. I wanted to be involved with that. I don't care how silly it comes across. It's more so for us than for kids. It's adults acting stupid and silly.
KW: What was it like working with this cast?
MT: Everybody was great. Ashley (Tisdale) was awesome. I got an autographed picture of her for my niece.
KW: Children's book author Irene Smalls asks: "How did you get into acting?"
MT: Just from messing around with a friend, Jim Toback, the director of "The Pickup Artist." I always used to see him in New York and talk to him when I was younger, like a teenager. Anthony Michael Hall brought me onto the set of one day in about '86, and Jim and I became acquainted and then good friends, and he started putting me into his movies, first "Black and White," and then we did "Tyson." He thought I was an interesting character. After that, I did "The Hangover" and got bitten by the acting bug. I have a lot of friends who've won Oscars, and they started telling me I could do it, too.
KW: I remember your doing a great job in "Black and White" opposite some famous daughter. Who was it, Jennifer Jason Leigh?
MT: That was Bijou Phillips. She was awesome in that film.
KW: And Jim's documentary, "Tyson," was riveting from start to finish.
MT: I'm just very grateful for his friendship. He's a remarkable dude.
KW: Larry Greenberg says: "When we talk about comedy, you hear words that could refer to boxing like 'timing' and 'punch line.' Do you see any similarities between the two?"
MT: I don't know. People tell me I'm a comedian, but I don't approach acting from that perspective. I do know that everything in life has to do with your timing and perception. You have to be comfortable with the rhythm that you're in. You can't just jump into a fast rhythm if yours is slow. You might have to pick up the pace but in your own particular way. It has to do with personality, too.
KW: Richie the intern was wondering how the play's coming along?
MT: We've been doing just great, selling out every night. And I couldn't believe the reviews. I couldn't believe it was me they were talking about. They're saying "Remarkably funny!" and "Moving!" I was like "They're talking about me?" The biggest honor I had so far was when the comedian Jeff Ross told me he liked it and said, "You're one of us, now." That was just amazing.
KW: Fight fan Mike Ehrenberg asks: "Who was stronger, Razor Ruddick or Bonecrusher Smith?"
MT: Bonecrusher was stronger, but Razor Ruddick hit harder.
KW: Mike also asks: "What was the hardest punch you ever took in the ring?"
MT: Wow! A bunch of guys really rang my clock. Gee! Razor Ruddick... Lennox Lewis... Evander Holyfield... They all did a number on me.
KW: Finally, Mike is curious about how you think you would've matched up against some of the other heavyweight greats in the ring?
MT: I have no idea. I just did what I did in my era, basically because of my admiration for the guys who came before me. That's how I've always looked at it. I never thought of boxing like, I'm going to be the greatest fighter ever and make a lot of money. Instead, I thought I was going to win because I learned from the best. I carefully studied the videotapes of all the fighters from the past, dissected their styles, and entered the ring with their spirit.
KW: Harriet Pakula-Teweles says: "Champ – you've had a long and varied career that involved lots of press coverage. What's the thing you'd most have us remember about you?"
MT: Overcoming my adversities.
KW: When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
MT: Me? I see an old, broke-ass black guy taking care of a bunch of kids, living life, taking them to school, and all that stuff, who's asking himself: "What the hell is this?" But I wouldn't give it up for the world because I love my wife. I never expected to have a life like this. No chaos... no confusion... no lawsuits... no violence... no going to jail...
KW: I'm originally from Bed-Stuy, too, from around Nostrand Avenue and Eastern Parkway.
MT: I know where that's at. That's an awesome neighborhood! Bed-Stuy, do or die! I'm from Franklin between DeKalb and Willoughby. Do you remember the Welfare place at 500 DeKalb?
KW: Sure, I'm older than you. I was born in the early Fifties.
MT: Oh, so you know what's really going down. My mother used to have us waiting with her in that long-ass line when we were kids. But we moved to Brownsville when I was 10.
KW: The Ling-Ju Yen question: "What is your earliest childhood memory?"
MT: Being in the hospital at about 5 years of age, after I drank some Drano. I remember it like it was yesterday. My mother had a bunch of people over the house, and I drank it because no one was paying me any attention.
KW: Yeah, children would prefer to be praised than punished, but they'd rather be punished than ignored.
MT: No doubt about it. That's life. That's our nature as human beings.
KW: What is your favorite dish to cook?
KW: Lastly, if you could have one wish instantly granted, what would that be for?
MT: That my daughter could still be with us.
KW: My condolences, Mike. Thanks again, and best of luck with all your endeavors.
MT: Thank you, Kam. OK, brother.
(To see the schedule for Mike Tyson's one-man play "Undisputed Truth," visit: http://tysonontour.com/)
(To see a trailer for "cary Movie 5," visit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RMDZ8M47j0I)